Children's Books

POCAHONTAS: GIRL OF JAMESTOWN, Kate Jassem, 1979, Troll Associates, easy native biographies series, Grades 3-5

This is one of a series of easy school research assignment-type Native biographies for children, published to capitalize on interest in Indians presumably aroused by the publicity surrounding activities of the American Indian Movement. Because they may still be in school holdings and still be plowed through by kids, iespecially interested in Pocahontas because of the Disney cartoon, it's given a downcheck here (along with any of the rest of these Troll bios).

In Through Indian Eyes reviewers said: What we have here is formula non-fiction. Their lives, and the circumstances surrounding them, have been so sanitized, so whitewashed, as to have lost all meaning. All of these books are filld with made-up conversations. In the case of Pocahontas, Sacajawa, and Squanto, most of the rest is made up too.

I understand that an author might wish to spare young children som of the grislier aspects of the history of Indian-white relations. It is clear that some effort has been made to show the ways in which Native Peoples have suffer4ed at the hands of white governments. But there is no sense that what was done to the Natibve populations was wrong. Their inevitable defeat by superior numbers and "civilization" is a strong underlying theme.

The illustrations for the most part suit the texts. In Pocahontas, for instance, "Powhattan" (this is not his name, actually), wears a Plains-style eagle-feather bonnet (streotype of Indian) all the time. None of the drawings bears even superficial resemblance to the real historical people of this series.

These books all feed directly into the myths of superiority and infallibility of white American institutions, myths that are force-fed to children in school. Books to avoid. Review abridged from Through Indian Eyes, 1992, Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Sunday, April 14, 1996 - 12:38:39 AM